Ascension and Pentecost—the two great feasts that signal the end of the Easter season—often occur at the end of the school year. They may even occur after religious education programs have ended. We can easily forget about them. But understanding Ascension and Pentecost is essential if our young people are going to grow into what Pope Francis has called a Church of “missionary disciples.”
Jesus gave us a mission to “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15), and the Holy Spirit continues to strengthen and inspire us in this mission. The mission Jesus gave to the disciples at his Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost are crucial parts of his story and that of the Church. They must not be omitted. Here are eight ways to include Ascension and Pentecost in your class.
- Read the description of the Apostles staring up into heaven after Jesus᾿ Ascension (Acts of the Apostles 1:1‒11). Have children discuss that and draw or act out what happened.
- Make a paper mobile with Jesus and some clouds. Some versions on the internet use a cloud-covered paper cup at the top.
- Take some time to listen to music and allow time for reflection. For example, consider playing “That Where I Am” by Rich Mullins.
- Use games and crafts to help younger students understand the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Teach them that the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church.
- Have students make “tongues of fire” headbands and flame-colored pinwheels.
- Invite older students to develop and act out a skit about the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. (Acts of the Apostles 2:1‒11)
- Take some time to show the video “Pentecost in 2 Minutes” and discuss it in class.
- If you are going to have a celebration or gathering to close the year, have students make red and orange streamers or ribbon banners for decoration. Include appropriate music, such as “Send Down the Fire.”
Most religious education programs shut down annually before we celebrate these important feasts. However, we shouldn’t feel limited by the school year. Consider bringing students and parents back for a rousing Pentecost celebration, sending them forth to spread the Gospel over the summer. This would remind students that our faith is a lived experience and not just a body of knowledge to acquire.
These feasts are so essential that we really should do more to help children and youth learn to appreciate them. Don’t let them get lost in the end-of-the-year shuffle.
How do you teach about Ascension and Pentecost?
Bonus idea: Download the poster and booklet Ascension to Pentecost: The First Novena to use in your class.